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Where to buy a pound of coffee?

really like their beans. had the sumatra and it is aromatic, chocolaty, and balanced. i kind of think there's a tad more caffeine in it somehow compared to roasts of similar color. i found it equal in taste and superior in aroma (and much less expensive) than my regular favorite: blue bottle. and in case you're trying to callibrate your tastes with my text, i'm not a fan of four barrel or sightglass beans which I find has a sour aftertaste AND oh-so expensive.

New on Upper Market: Pastry Cupboard and Fried Chicken Pop-up at Rebel

Got four items of different dough types/techniques to try:
* Blueberry muffin: tender, bursting with seasonal blueberries (staining my fingers)--made me exhale through my nose with pleasure. No metallic taste as the prior reviewer mentioned--so I appreciated the heads up to look for that. $1.75 seemed good considering how fresh/bursting/tender it tastes. (or am I out of whack living in SF?)
* Almond croissant: it was solid and hit the spot if you're in the mood, but the search goes on for the best almond croissant... :)
* Mushroom cheese puff pastry: somehow the texture of the flaky puff and mushroom/tangy cheese insides conjured memories of me sitting down for a fine dinner. so if one can taste the chef's resume, perhaps it was in this pastry more than the others? so, i liked it, yes, and i'll go back for this. hope there will be other fillings in the future?
* Ham, egg, focaccia square. I had to eat my way past the focaccia corners to get to the canadian bacon topping; and surprise!--there were egg AND potatoes under the bacon. I initially thought the focaccia was a bit dry on its own, but once you get to the egg, it makes total sense. (Rip the corners off, start in on the egg, and eat the corners with the middle?) I'm working my way through half of it, and am pretty full--it's a solid meal. I've tried to make eggs inside of my baked items before, and I personally have a hard time pulling it off. Tell Tale (which I miss--hope you come back somewhere) had a muffin with the egg inside of it--and I do like Pastry Cupboard's more.

It is not often I try four entirely different pastries (quickbread, croissant flaky dough, puff pastry, focaccia) and am impressed with the execution on all four. I'll definitely go back and try the lemon pound cake and maybe some of the cakes/pies given how good the breakfast pastries are. And I loved that there was a lot of parking in the early morning on Franklin. At 7 am, the owner (Chona) was there, keeping an eye on things--so that was sort of cool. I read somewhere that people were sort of debating the graphics of her sign. Most of the talk was, if the pastries are good, no one will care about the sign. I have definitely forgotten about any graphics and am glad this Bistro Clovis space has been put to exceptional use.

Hawker Fare [Oakland]

I also had lunch and have to say that the previous posters were accurate.

I think my main disappointment was that I expected this would be Asian casual fare touched by the exquisite taste/guidance of Commis/James S. Something worth a trip? Instead, this may be simply a place where Oakland business folk can get a decently priced lunch with a few smart gourmet touches in a western-friendly environment.

As expected for an opening restaurant, the service was very on top of things. major kudos to that. If they didn't know the answer to a question (what is this delicious herb in the bowl?) they would do their best to find out.

The servers suggested the papaya salad, which we both did NOT like. We both didn't like the texture of the shredded papaya, the noticeable fishiness, and the lack of flavor balance (not enough sour, not enough hot) for our expectations (which were more Thai than Laotian). I will say the busboy and the server noticed we hardly touched it, and they offered to take it off the bill and solicited our feedback. I don't really mind eating a different variation of a dish, but it does have to taste good to be worthy of a push from the server. Tm and abstract poet were too kind in their gentle let downs of this dish. I should've listened to them...

The rice bowls were pretty good. They suggested the chicken, pork belly, and meatball/sausage rice bowls--all with egg addition. My partner had the sous vide chicken--nice (with salty dark sauce)! And I had the meatball/sausage--also tasty. The meats were nicely executed (chicken was velvety, grill marks on the sausage) and there were beautiful and fresh tasting herbs as an accompaniment. I will agree with daveena about the sad texture of the steamed rice in the RICE bowl. My rice cooker at home can beat the pants off the rice at Hawker. Rice, like bread, if done well, just MAKES the meal...

I'm not a big decor person, but I did like the large windows and natural light. The wall decorations were ok (music posters, graffiti in one specific section upward) but I wasn't quite sure if it was thematic or aesthetic. Music was sort of cool (zero 7) and got us talking about what we listened to 5 yrs ago (in a good way).

If I were to suggest anything beyond what i've mentioned above, I'd say try to offer more interesting drink options--options that are quick/easy to mix up for servers, but unusual/tasty. (Southeast) Asian fare seems to have a lot of amazing drinks that westerners are less familiar with for no good reason, including salt plum lemon sodas, grass jellys, and 1-2 hot tea options. Those can boost the guest check an easy $3 per person per table, and be very satisfying to complement salty meat/rice dishes. The current drink mix is standard condensed milk iced tea/coffee, palm juice, and then an assortment of crush, coke, and other sodas. Sort of uninspired--and surprisingly so.

After the salty meat/rice bowls, there definitely was the need to sweeten the palate. The menu had mostly Strauss soft serve based items which on this day was out of order. Once again, I'm not sure if it will add more burden to the kitchen, but after the rice bowls, we were craving mango/papaya something... Something not necessarily fatty/western cream-based, but cleaner/tropical-er.

If the menu offerings were more inspired, I would have been willing to spend double what my $25 guest check (for 2) turned out to be. The rice bowls were good--but as I mentioned, we probably won't have a craving to drive out from SF until we hear that things have become more Commis'd up.

Hawker Fare
2300 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94612

Dinosaurs (banh mi sandwiches) in SF Castro District

I agree with Boris_qd. This place was ok for banh mi, but I'm probably not visiting again. While I was there, there was a modest trickle of customers, so other people must like it. I thought the price of sandwiches were pricey for banh mi. $4.75 is way more expensive than Saigon Sandwiches. And for the price, a boost in quality is not there. First, the bread was a bit harder/denser than light, crusty baguettes I expect. And second, the sum total of the sandwich didn't taste like more than the sum of its parts. I think Saigon Sandwiches adds some sort of mayonnaise or fat or something to meld the sandwich into something euphoric. Dinosaur had a very straight interpretation with nothing special added to it. I would suggest Ikes (which is not totally for me either--I feel like I've had 3 meals after one of those sandwiches! but Ikes is literally on the other side of the building from Dinosaur--and they have a non-stop line). And I personally really like Super Duper, near by. Always a high quality beef burger and great service at Super Duper.

Anyone make it over to Ajisen Ramen(Sf) ?

Overall: fun environment, great variety in menu, not necessary for a special trip, but a wonderful option if you're at the mall. i had the spicy pork ramen (salt broth) and my friend had butter corn ramen (salt broth). the balance between soup and noodles: not enough soup--we both left a big nest of noodles behind. i thought the broth was fine, but the noodles were a bit plastic-y. (not the best i've had. no images of a practiced hand out back stretching and cutting the noodles extra fresh.) i personally liked the cabbage (which we felt were perfectly crunch textured) and hard boiled egg (half) in the bowl, and we both agreed the pork was of exceptional quality. in addition, we tried to order a tonkatsu side dish--but they were sold out at 6 pm. so we got a hot fresh croquette with bits of meat in it and a dollop of japanese mayo on the side. The crust was clean and beautifully executed--very enjoyable. they have a separate colorful drink menu that will be sure to raise the guest check $4. my friend was easy prey: so we got a bubble tea (easy upsell to go to large for 50 cents more!, but soggy, limp tapiocas). service was friendly, but not 100% on top of things (forgot smaller requests like water, but were quick to correct).

just to give you benchmarks of our tastes, we do like halu ramen (a bit too fatty in broth, but we do strive to finish the whole bowl) and santa ramen. for us, we found ourselves comparing the ramen to nearby Katana-ya, which we also enjoy. Our only jibe on Katana-ya, which doesn't stop us at all, is that the broth makes you really thirsty for hours afterward (due to the salt). Not that anyone asked: but we'll probably walk to Katana-ya if we want a satisfying, flavorful bowl, sushi options, salmon rice (with the combo special for $14.50), cold draft beer, and a SF funky vibe. And regarding that vibe--I really dig being served Japanese comfort food by friendly waitresses from Estonia. I think this is how I know I'm in SF and not Tokyo. We'll go to Ajisen if we want excellent chashu, cleanly fried side dishes, fun drinks, are with a group of different tastes (and don't want to stand in line for the crowded space at Katanaya), and proximity to Nordstrom's/Westfield/Bart. I like that this may be the closest ramen-ya to a train station outside of Tokyo.

Has anyone tried the new Chez Papa Resto in the Mint Plaza?

I wanted to see how Chez Papa Resto was holding up after the initial buzz. My chow friends were mentioning this branch (Mint Plaza) has the "up and coming" David Bazrigan.

Our foursome had high expectations--and we were still blown away. After fleeing to the East Bay for great dinner experiences, CPR is bringing me back into San Francisco. The restaurant was sold out on Saturday evening, but they still accomodated us. In the end, we were able to sit at the large communal table and had a great time seeing what other people ordered.

Service was excellent. Hostess was intimidatingly lovely and welcoming. Servers and food runners were top notch, efficient--recommendations and knowledge about source ingredients all there.

So, the food: I'd say it is Alice Waters (back in the glory days) meets Provencal Cooking. All the items were not only in season, but strictly in peak season. The chef seems a bit fanatic about achieving "hyper seasonality." Well, I'm glad someone is fanatic (besides me) and is creative/knowledgeable enough to create dishes to highlight Springtime. The entrees were about 25-30/dish--which I always eye skepticaly. I've been underwhelmed before at other SF restaurants (did someone say Zuni?). But turns out I think the prices were still a great deal. It's the same feeling I got after eating at Commis.

Our order (and to be efficient--all were amazing, especially the entrees):

*Bread basket--excellent as a french restaurant should have
*Amuse Bouche (Strawberry salad: imaginative)
*Asparagus soup (rich, creamy, but not fattening)
*Custom ravioli (based on Spaghetti Carbonara). We actually did not order this--we had asked about this because we had heard it about it from another foodie--basically a big ravioli with a deep yellow half-cooked egg inside, pancetta, peas--designed to be a playful reference to Carbonara. The waiter said they had sold out yesterday, so we were graciously disappointed. After the appetizers we ended up waiting a bit longer than normal for the entrees--turns out the chef brought out two orders of the carbonara ravioli--gratis. David did it for us on a whim. It must have been fairly time intensive for him to create the ravioli from scratch--but he wanted us to experience it. I'm not sure this would ever happen again, but we were amazed that the restaurant seemed to be as enthusiastic to share it's creations as we were to try them. This was the sort of commitment to the eater/customer as I felt we got at Guy Savoy in Paris.
*Halibut on sea beans--a golden crust encapsulating blindingly white flesh, gorgeously fresh, and perfectly done. Not a big fan of the accompaniment (sea beans)--akin to okra in texture, but it was so novel and thematic, I didn't mind.
*Seared chicken--crisp skin, tender insides, sumptuous orange/brown coloring?
*Steak Frites--wolfed down--not a fry was left. Steak and sauce deeply satisfying.
*Lobster poached in butter--a bit more pricey, but once again, a beautiful texture and taste and presentation.
*Panna Cotta
*Sorbet Selections

I have been long tired of the many clone tablecloth restaurants here in SF. I find myself heading to the East Bay for my food dollar lately. I love Commis, Wood Tavern, the Gather.. but after Chez Papa Resto, they made me feel excited to eat in SF again. Yes, the space is nice/large, there's al fresco dining on the patio, it's the best place near Union Square/Metreon... There is a lot of care and attention and dedication to the customer experience here. Even if we had not been gifted the surprise ravioli, we are definitely coming back.

I'm trying to think of any negatives... it was worth the price... I really can't think of any negatives on this visit. Going again later this month--if I see any flaws, I'll report it back later.

Zuni Cafe
1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Wood Tavern
6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

Chez Papa Resto
4 Mint Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94103

3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

BBQ Smokehouse in Sebastopol – Opens June 16, 5pm

When I asked her (a week later), she said she would gladly go back due to the pleasant eating environment and service--and if the farmer's market was going on that adds extra incentive for the long drive. She thought the food was better than the average, more carefully done, but not enough to drag her off her diet like some places in KC or TX (which is another topic all together). I do hope others try it so we can get more perspectives.

BBQ Smokehouse in Sebastopol – Opens June 16, 5pm

I was in Napa this weekend and decided to check out the new BBQ place. I thought it surprisingly charming, lovingly cooked (high quality meats, smoked for hours and hours!), and overall well executed. I'll be interested to hear what other eaters say. While we felt it was a good, well done bbq, it wasn't something quite yet for me to insist upon my friends with. As a point of reference, I do actually drive to Calistoga for Busters at least twice a year. I think Buster's also has good meats but additionally a sauce that is addictively hot.

For we two bbq seekers, it was good, but a bit anti-climactic. My co-taster this trip was a friend from the Kansas City area whose personal favorite is LC's in KC. We called ahead, but the answering machine had no indication if it was open or not. I think the website said they were. Turns out they were indeed open, and they do take credit cards.

Chef Vito's brother was operating the cash register. He said the place just opened (yesterday?) and he was absolutely friendly and took us through the options. We ordered the 3 meat platter--which has all three of their meats: memphis ribs (recommended by them), brisket, and chicken. We got two sides with it (mac and cheese, potato salad) and ordered a third (beans, which were recommended). We got the sweet tea and lemonade (with pureed strawberries).

Thing we loved:
Dining environment--semi-outside with clean, red checkerboard (laminate) table tops. Very charming. Clean. Definite feel of "how did you find this place!" Pleasantly cool breeze and shade despite 100 degree weathers on the road outside. Service was great. New local customers were popping in to try it out.
Cornbread with honey butter. We inhaled this one. Moist, delicate, delicious. It went great with the bbq. I will order more next time in advance.
Strawberry lemonade: Sweet, cold, and refreshing

Pretty Good:
Brisket (very tender and high quality--the poster was correct not to put sauce on that as it was delicate on it's own).
Baked beans (the good stuff is on the bottom, where the sauce is). I added a bit more bbq sauce, and it definitely tasted great that way too.
Sweet tea with mint
Chicken (very juicy and tenderly pink in a good way--tasty). The more I think back on it, the more I liked it... Poster is also correct here that bbq sauce is not necessarily with chicken either).
Memphis ribs (lean, great toothfeel: firm but tender, definitely long smoked). I could never have executed this at home as they've smoked it for hours upon hours. We ate about half of the ribs (meaning we did not devour them)--dipped it in the two sauces (Carolina vinegar style and regular) to try both. I appreciated the quality, but didn't feel compelled to recommend it to others quite yet. It doesn't have the addictive scrumptiousness for me.

I'll skip next time:
Potato Salad (curried? with bits of cucumber--interesting/gourmet, sort of ate it, but stopped eating it once we started filing up.
mac and cheese: Looked great and creamy. But tasted a bit "old" somehow. Only one bite of this one.

Checked out the farmer's market a short walk away, and the bbq had a stand there as well. Yes, the restaurant is just starting out, but the family involvement and attention to service makes it well worth supporting, at least to say hi and appreciate foods that have been smoked over long times. I look forward to more knowledgable bbq eaters posting their experiences.


I also ordered from FGpizza! Google checkout was freezing their site, so I called to let them know. Frank G called back within a minute. He was very responsive, really nice, talked about sourdough with me and how he was using his starter. Of the four sellers of dough whisks, FGPizza was tied for cheapest (including tax, shipping, everything) with Fantes is in Vermont and shipping was likely to take 5+ days so that swung it for FGPizza. Although I love Breadtopia for educating home bakers so much, their whisks were a wee bit more expensive. And King Arthur's were way too expensive (1000% agree with canthespam). Frank said he'll ship them tomorrow--so thanks to Chow/Breadfoolio, I found a place that is not only cheaper, but faster for me.

Jun 03, 2009
creuset in Cookware

Le Creuset vs. Staub

Last fall, I was under the impression from our Henckels salesperson that Henckels/Demeyere was merely a distribution/marketing agreement (and that Staub was in the same situation). But thanks for Chuckles (above) and Blondelle (below), to revealing the actual acquisitions of these two brands. Already, Demeyere is getting improved awareness as I saw them prominently displayed at Bloomingdales. Normally I could only see and touch them at Sur La Table.

Either way, in a few years, it's possible Staub and Demeyere will be just as well known, easy to find, (and coveted) as Le Creuset and All-Clad.

With regards to the bankruptcy--that is an interesting question. Maybe Henckels knew about Staub's situation and "required" Staub to declare bankruptcy as part of the pre-acquisition clean up. Or maybe Henckels was unfortunate in their timing. Either way, from these press releases, Staub will be around.

May 20, 2009
creuset in Cookware

Fine black teas

Wholly agree with Sairuh. Upton is the premier place to buy tea. I know this is 2009 (2 years after the last post), but I have to warn against buying at Chado in Los Angeles--and hope someone will pass this on to them to improve their operations. We were introduced to Chado on 3rd St on a food tour (Melting Pot Tours--very nice). We were told they are the largest importer of tea in the US, which seemed odd. But we sampled some sweet/mild teas there and thought it was worth trying. So we ordered some via website. The order took a very long to fulfill (10 days). The packaging of our two teas was in the same type of paper bags coffee beans come in--the scent was fuming out of the UPS package and into our car trunk--not a good sign (meaning the tea was losing volatile compounds quickly). One of the paper container bags was soaked with oil spots. The tea was clearly overly scented--I think there was too much flower essence or oil added--and the balance was completely off for the two teas we purchased. It was retched. By contrast, every tea we've purchased via Uptontea has been well reviewed on their website, balanced in taste, and of the best quality. They are experts--so you can't go wrong with anything that sell. The small things that make a big difference are executed perfectly. They seal their teas lovingly in airtight foil bags. The bags (which are personalized with your name) also indicate the proper temperature and steeping time (which can differ from tea to tea). If you don't like websites and want to talk to the experts, call their warehouse and talk to anyone there. I often talk with Frank Sanchez there who always has great recommendations and throws in some samples of various things we've talked about. When I first talked to Frank, I told him I drank black teas with milk/sugar. (He drank them plain to be able to taste them and not be so loaded down throughout the day.) As time has passed, I do find myself tending to use much less milk/sugar. Those little interactions do have a way of rubbing off on me. There are other great things to talk about, but every step from catalog to excellent pricing for the best leaves to drinking the actual tea is unmatched. I think it exceeds Ten Ren, Samovar (I do like them), and everything else I've tried.

The Rainbow Grocery thread - what to buy?

thanks for calling SACO directly. i see there was a thread about the search for saco outlining where to get it (besides at Rainbow) at:

The Rainbow Grocery thread - what to buy?

Beyond the things mentioned by others already, here are some weird specific things I buy from Rainbow that seem to be hard to find in SF.
* Dutch process cocoa (non-alkali) for deep chocolate baking/drinks. About a year ago I stopped being able to find it in normal grocery stores because Hershey's seemed to discontinue it (leaving me only with the expensive Droste box). Rainbow has dutch process in bulk. Yeah!
*The yellow popcorn kernels we've found at Rainbow bulk pop the best (Berkeley Bowl doesn't seem to carry it off corn season). It's something to do with the moisture content.
*My friend loves the jam section (Strawberry Rhubarb when it's in stock).
*I happen to like Rachel's yogurts. I will admit it's possibly the packaging... Rainbow has the widest selection of Rachel's yogurts (better than Berkeley Bowl's)
*Barley malt (for my chocolate malts and secret pancake recipe) which can be hard to find in normal grocery stores in SF. The only other place I found it was at Restaurant Depot in a large industrial container.
*Sacco powdered buttermilk is also no longer being made for grocery stores--but Rainbow bulk has powdered buttermilk. Savior!
*In the housewares section, they have these amazingly fine tea strainers by Kotobuki--really amazing to eliminate fannings. Of course, once people buy them all, Rainbow seems so slow to restock...
*Fresh OJ from Voila juices (of Oakland)--hard to find in SF. Usually I have to go to Voila themselves or to Berkeley Bowl. Way better than Columbia Gorge or flat, heavy, coasting Odwalla.
*Best selection of cane sugar (non HFC) sodas

The poster that favorably compared Rainbow's organic vegetables to Berkeley Bowl's tiny organic section was dead on. (Heidipie). And likewise, with BernalKC, I agree if someone opened up a freerange/grassfed meat counter, I would have literally no need to go anywhere else. I'd probably have to hold my wedding there.

Peach and blackberry pie, Noe Valley Bakery

i agree that I also was not a fan of NVB in past years. but tried a few things recently, and they've made some major improvements in breads (baguettes), pastries (great morning bun, not burnt like Tartine's--more like la farine's), and changing offerings (cupcakes, scones, etc) over the last 3 years. mentioned this to the owner who happened to be there one morning (hey, what changed over the past 3 years?), and he admitted they were taking things for granted for a period, and are now taking things seriously, doing their best to win customers. the baguettes are wonderfully soft but structured inside, while still crusty--i like them better than acme's for sandwich making.